A New Name and a New Legacy to Live Up To

The Thunder Bird in the art of the Haida

Last night in a ceremony with my cousin, a fellow Menominee Indian and veteran of the American Indian Movement and Menominee Warrior Society, as well as former tribal chairman and currently a language keeper for our nation, my mother and I received “Indian” names (some people call them “spirit names”). It was a great honour to receive one, and it was a beautiful, and certainly not ostentatious, ceremony. We began by rendering a quick prayer in our language to the ancestors, to the trees, to the water, the wind and sacred grandmother earth. My mother receiver her name first, then I.

I am now Enaemaehkiw. In our language “ae” is pronounced as the “a” in the word “cat” and the “h” and “w” represent various other sounds, making the pronunciation closer to something like Ehnamakey. It means “Thunderer,” or, less accurately, “Thunder Bird.” Being a sky being, it is linked to my clan (which has also been finally sorted out after years of some confusion), which is the Crane Clan. It is also in the lineage of my family name, Keshena, which roughly means “he who flies swiftly.”

As with many, many other indigenous people in the occupied Americas, for my people the Thunder Birds are a very important symbol and spiritual being, even being the most prominant feature on our national flag and seal. With my name also comes new responsibility. I now must strive to live up to my name, to safeguard it for those from the generations yet unborn that might also come to share the name.

So, from now on I will be writing under the name Enaemaehkiw, rather than Rowland. I will continue to use the middle name Túpac as well, having given it to myself in honour of the legacies of resistance of Túpac Amaru I & II, as well as Túpac Katari. Keshena, which is my mother’s family name, and my legal middle name I will also most certainly continue to use. However, I’ll continue to answer to the name Rowland, and will still be able to be found on Facebook and Twitter as Rowland Túpac Keshena or just Rowland Keshena.


Posted on April 23, 2011, in Indigenous Struggles. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on A New Name and a New Legacy to Live Up To.

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